Looking back as we enter the week filled with ‘finals’ like the final editorial, the final publishing cheque, the final classified ad deadline, the final trip to pick up the printed papers and the final day of work on a newspaper I realize the eight week window was more for me than anyone else. I worked on average 55-hours a week to produce a weekly 20-page paper. It was a 24-pager up until the past couple of years and a 28-pager when I took over as owner/publisher in 2004.
The last eight weeks of life left in my ‘baby’ saw it drop down to 16-pages per issue. That’s not a negative as many small town community newspapers are 16-pages or less. What the shift in size did for me was not only slash the cost of printing considerably, it also reduced my workload. For a change I actually had two days off a week and they were one after the other. I had not worked less than six days a week for more than one week in a row for well over 12 years – not counting the four to six days I would take off during Christmas week.
As the transition is getting a little easier for me I have noticed something I really did not expect. We are going to be missed. I know that may sound a little on the silly side but we have been running on empty for so long it just felt as if no one cared whether or not we published a paper. It felt as if no one read our paper and it felt as if no one needed or wanted our paper. It was getting very, very discouraging and that plays on your mind.
I never gave up trying, though.
I always put all my effort into each issue because that is the way I am. I wasn’t about to ‘half-ass’ my way out the door because maybe one person out there really did care what my thoughts were on a particular subject. The realization that we were going to be missed resulted from feedback – mostly shock and sadness – that came from residents when we made the announcement official the first week in June with a giant red headline yelling, “GOING OUT OF BUSINESS.”
Even today, on a day off as I was getting gas at a local service station I was on my way to the car to start pumping fuel when someone I did not know got my attention. He looked at me as I passed by and said in a sincere tone, “I’m gonna miss you guys.” It’s been a series of those comments over the past eight weeks that has made me understand that possibly we touched more people in the community than I thought.
Cards, e-mails, flowers, phone calls and unannounced visits have sprinkled each day since the first week after our announcement. At times it has been accompanied with tears and hugs. One person shocked me with a spine crushing hug after close to an hour long conversation about how sad they were that we were not receiving enough support from the community to keep our business afloat. Another one was late in the day of our final production day. A former advertiser came into the office and thanked me personally for standing by my ethics throughout my tenure as owner/publisher. He told that to my wife, followed it with a hug and she could see tears in his eyes.
It has been a number of people coming out of nowhere saying things from the same general location. I have started to habitually nod my head and respond with, “Thank you, I appreciate you sharing that.” It has been as if someone in our family has passed away and it has affected everyone around us greater than it has affected us. But this is how I have looked at it from the beginning, all of eight weeks ago. My ‘baby’ will finally suffer no more and be put to rest. My ‘baby’ will be remembered fondly by many.
I will carry that knowledge with me when I start to enter the mourning phase myself. Knowing there has been so much love and admiration from others for my ‘baby’ will assist me in dealing with the final burial of the paper in the coming week.